LARGE DOGS and those without photo identification in Beijing are being snatched by the city police on Government orders to curb the spread of rabies, which has killed about 200 people a month in China this year.
Human rabies fatalities nationwide surged 30 percent to 1,817 in the first nine months of the year with at least 10 deaths occurring in the capital, as attacks by abandoned, rabid dogs escalate.
Police are killing strays before they can bite people, and ordering owners to register their pets.
From November 1, owners without a credit card-sized licence bearing their pet's photo face fines of up to 5,000 yuan ($636) and the confiscation of the animal. Beijing authorities also introduced a one-dog per owner policy and are enforcing a decade-old breed specific ban on what they term ‘violent and large dogs,’ such as German Shepherds.
Police are stepping up enforcement as the rate of infection rises and China is spending $34 billion in preparation for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. More than 8,900 unregistered dogs were seized in the city this year and the Municipal Agricultural Bureau plans to implant microchips in dogs kept in districts with Olympic stadiums.
Tactics deployed by the city's dog inspectors aren't always civil, said Jeff He, a spokesman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Beijing. In one case, a dog was beaten to death in front of its owner. Police have cut power and water supply to homes suspected of abetting clandestine canines, he said.
China has about 150 million pet dogs. The number has climbed 30 percent in the past five years, Euromonitor Plc said in a report last year. The market research company attributes the increase to the desire among one-child households for an extra companion and as a source of comfort for older people.
There was a public backlash last weekend on the streets of Beijing to denounce a government crackdown on pet dogs that have the city's usually passive citizens crying murder. The protesters, many holding up toy fluffy dogs, were decrying government moves to restrict the number of dogs by enforcing an arbitrary 35-centimetre height limit on dogs and confiscating and culling oversized ones, said one of the organisers.
Eighteen protesters were detained and released only after organisers agreed to disperse the rally.